How to Grow and Care for Wishbone Flowers

wishbone flowers

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Wishbone flowers (Torenia fournieri) are an excellent choice for bringing some color and life to a shadier part of the garden. Unlike many other annual flowers, these compact plants don't mind growing in partial shade. Their trumpet-shaped blooms come in several color choices; the primary species coloring is a dark blue-purple and lavender with yellow markings. Within each flower, a pair of stamens (the slender stalks) unites in a shape that resembles a wishbone, hence the plant’s common name.

Plant wishbone flowers in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. While they are annuals and will die at the first fall frost, they grow quickly and bloom profusely from early summer until cold weather sets in. Moreover, the plants are deer-resistant and attractive to hummingbirds.

Botanical Name Torenia fournieri
Common Names Wishbone flower, bluewings, clown flower
Family Linderniaceae
Plant Type Annual
Mature Size 6–12 inches tall, 6–9 inches wide
Sun Exposure Partial shade
Soil Type Loamy, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral
Bloom Time Spring, summer
Flower Color Bi-colors of pale violet and dark purple, yellow and dark purple , dark purple and white, pink and white
Hardiness Zones Grows in zones 2 thru 11
Native Area Asia
closeup of torenia flowers

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

closeup of wishbone flower

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Wishbone Flower Care

Aside from keeping your plants sufficiently watered and fed, there isn't much maintenance necessary. Deadheading (removing spent blooms) isn't essential, though it can help to encourage more growth and flowering. Furthermore, if a plant looks scraggly, you can trim it back to about half its height.


The ideal location for wishbone flowers is where it receives early morning sun and afternoon shade. If you live in a climate that has hot summers, pick a fairly shady location for your plants. It will not thrive in full sun.


Wishbone flower prefers organically rich, loamy soil with a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH. Excellent soil drainage is essential to prevent root rot. To improve the soil quality, consider mixing in some compost at the time of planting.


Wishbone flowers require moderate but consistent moisture. Keep the soil moist, but make sure the plants aren't sitting in soggy soil.

Temperature and Humidity

Wishbone flowers grow best in temperatures of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit at night. They can tolerate cooler temperatures, though frost will kill the plants. They also don’t like excessive heat or humidity and can benefit from a layer of mulch in hot climates to keep their roots cool.


To keep wishbone flowers healthy and blooming, provide a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer roughly every few weeks throughout the growing season (spring to fall). You can either use a liquid fertilizer or a slow-release granule fertilizer, following label instructions.

Types of Wishbone Flowers

Several varieties of wishbone flowers range in appearance, including:

  • Catalina® 'White Linen': This variety has pure white flowers with a yellow throat and reaches about 16 inches tall. 
  • Kauai 'Rose': This compact variety grows eight inches tall and wide, has bright pink and white blooms, and is notable for its tolerance to heat and humidity.
  • 'Moon Purple': This variety features lavender and dark purple blooms and grows to about ten inches tall.


Pinching off the growing tip of the flower when it reaches a couple of inches high will help to create a bushier plant. If the plant looks scraggly, feel free to shape it as you wish. You can prune this plant back to about half its overall height.

Propagating Wishbone Flowers

To propagate wishbone flowers, take stem cuttings that are at least six inches long . Try to get a node (raised bump) at the bottom of the stem, which is likely to root. Remove any leaves on the lower half of the cutting and place the cutting in water. Once roots begin to grow, plant the cutting in a peat or paper pot filled with a quality potting mix, and keep the soil moist. Then, bring the plant outside for increasingly longer stretches for about a week to acclimate it to the outdoors before planting it in your garden or in an outdoor container.

How to Grow Wishbone Flowers From Seed

If you want to grow your wishbone flowers from seed, start the seeds six to eight weeks before your area's projected last frost date. Note that the flowers don't transplant well, so the seeds should be started in peat or paper pots that you can plant along with the seedlings. In frost-free climates, wishbone flowers can be direct-seeded in your desired planting site outdoors about one week before your last expected frost date.

Don't cover the seeds with soil because they need light to germinate. Keep the soil moist and relatively warm—around 70 degrees Fahrenheit—until the seeds germinate. After that, they can handle cooler temperatures. 


Wishbone flowers are annual plants that will be destroyed by the first frost. You can't overwinter these plants.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Wishbone flowers don't have any major problems with pests or diseases. But they can be susceptible to fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew, that can discolor and damage their leaves and stems. Providing optimal growing conditions and good air circulation for the plants should help to prevent most problems.

Moreover, some common garden pests, including aphids and whiteflies, will prey on wishbone flowers. With aphids, you might notice a sticky residue that these insects leave behind as they feed on the plants. And with whiteflies, you often can see the tiny flying insects rise up in a cloud when the plant is disturbed. You can control these problems with insecticidal soap.

How to Get Wishbone Flowers to Bloom

These flowers readily produce profusions of blooms if the conditions are right. The biggest culprit of wishbone flowers not blooming is moisture - this plant doesn't like sitting in soggy soil and might not bloom if the soil is too wet. It should be grown in an area with moderate temperatures and humidity, as anything too hot or humid will stunt the growth.

  • Can wishbone flowers grow indoors?

    These can be used as a container plant for a season. If you keep them in the house, give them the best care possible, but remember that they might not readily bloom for you.

  • What plants pair well with wishbone flowers?

    To create a stunning display, consider impatiens, Irish moss, and coleus as great companion plants for wishbone flowers.

  • How many different types of wishbone flowers are there?

    There are currently about 15 species of wishbone flower in the family Linderniaceae.